Saturday, June 7, 2014

Tango's Trademark Infringement

Ficciones en las Noticias
Lady Justice hears the facts, blind to opinion.
Tango lost in the court of common sense.

(The Unassociated Press)  The World Tango Federation!* recently attempted to patent the terms Leader and Follower.  However, the Unified Patent Court in the European Union has denied this attempt.  Other international patent legal bodies have followed with the UPC's precedence.  Through a patient lawsuit, the Ballroom Association Directorate (BAD), countered the WTF! attempt, and has won the patient for Ballroom teachers worldwide to have proprietary usage of the terms "leader/follower."  Tango teachers around the world have been ordered to stop using "leader and follower" when teaching the roles of tango couples by 2015.

Ballroom Association Directorate (BAD) unequivocally demonstrated that Leading and Following is
the domain of the traditional ballroom dancing and their pedagogic approach, and that they have been using these terms properly for centuries. Their spokesperson, Francis Strong-Frame, declared after BAD won the lawsuit was:  "Ballroom leaders get the basic thump of the music and then do combinations of bronze, silver or gold movements in any random order, and the followers obey these commands.  Tango dancers do not comply with these important requirements for true leading and following.  At the higher levels of ballroom dance, the true leader is usually a paid instructor/choreographer who dictates what the dancers are supposed to do.  Also, the ballroom dancer must demonstrate precise movements of how each move is to be executed, which are all codified in manuals.  This is true leading and following at the highest levels.  Tango dancers do not conform to these norms either.  It is unfathomable that tango teachers would even use these terms, but especially inappropriate that WTF! (World Tango Federation!) would attempt to patent these terms for themselves."  Mr. Strong- Frame added later, "We have never insisted on owning these terms, but now with this aggressive infringement from WTF, we have had to stand our ground."

I hate to tell you the bad news, but my dear tango friends, we tangueros and tangueras have to come up with something else than their trademark and patented teaching terminology of "lead and follow."  Please help!

 BAD, rightfully so, has shown in a court of law, that what tango dancers are doing is substantially different than what ballroom teaches and practises for leading and following.

So, come on! We have to come up with something. Let's think! Murat and Michelle Erdemsel once in a class I took with them suggested avoiding the "F-word" (follower), replacing it with "Allow-er" That's a great start.   Sharna, another teacher, suggest "the keeper of possibilities."  Maybe the "keeper" for the rol feminino? Please send in your ideas. WTF/we need your input! In the last post/article, I suggested "Leader" be the music, which I still think is best. For the couple I suggested the terms "follower one" and "follower two" represent the respective roles of the couple. In discussion with some who read that article, I now think, however, that it'd be best to drop the word "follower" altogether in favor of a totally fresh start. My two cents: How about "listener one" (Yang role) and "listener two" (Yin role)?

I'm listening.

Artist: Zhack

Above is one of new series on a conversation about "leading-and-following."  Last week was the first of the series:  Both roles expressing intention:  The Power of the Mirada.

Starting back in 2010, however, I have visited this theme often:
Tarzan goes to Buenos Aires
Follower: A Job without Promotion 
Tango: Man Talk / Woman Listen?
An article on women who are behind the beat, listening mostly to the man (with some great videos)
Don't let another man lead her
The first article on this theme in 2010:  "The End of Leading is Near"   The end wasn't as near as I thought.  :-(

P.S.  Of course I am being ironic (the literary word for "sarcastic as hell." In the past, I have written ironic articles and commenters have taken me seriously.  Sometime peoples drink wine and then start reading blogs.  Irony is sometime not easily detected while reading quickly or reading under the influence because the thesis is the opposite of what is stated.  Here are some clues about irony above:
1. "
Ficciones en las noticias(fiction in the news) is a hint.
2.  The Unassociated Press is not a true news service.
3.  WTF is an initialized expression indicating "astounding disbelief," and is short for "what the f**k are you thinking/doing?!!
Whether in irony or fact, don't you agree that it time that we come up with better terms just for the magic of tango?

(after-ther-fact) apologies to WTF
(the World Tango Federation):
I did not mean to be prophetic.  After I wrote this article, someone pointed out that WTF (World Tango Federation) actually exists, and as my inner (and mostly silent) prophet predicted, WTF promotes tango-as-performance and tango for profit.   Here's their descriptive photo, which says it all so well:  Man to his woman:  "I am the leader, got it!  Submit!"  Notice also that the "non-profit organization" promotes only for-profit events, featuring stage stars, and very little about community development.  Pictures speak loudly.  Clearly there is a leader and follower here; a dominant/submissive:

WTF! The main photo for WTF
and the Leader/Follower mentality

This move is called "North and South,"
an especially cool move on a hot evening.

Other than cool moves, the man-on-top position is the "mission":


  1. Caller/responder. And, of course, the roles are fluid.

  2. @ Johanna: I wonder what you mean. Is the tango caller like the "caller" in a circle of casino salsa dancers in Cuba ("cantante") calls out a move and the whole circle follows the call. The "caller" in square dancing does the same, and the "responders" gladly obey. In both everyone is having a blast and dancing. However, this is not my experience in tango. I find my role to be as unique as Yang (of yin and yang). I think that fluidity of roles is not like a conversation, in which fluidity is necessary for a great conversation. But we do both listen and influence the dance in a magical way.

  3. TT wrote: "Murat and Michelle Erdemsel suggested avoiding the "F-word" (follower), replacing it with "Allow-er.""

    Good grief! Only From America... :)

  4. @ Chris: I published your comment, not knowing what it really means. So may I interpret it "only in America..." as if you meant to be philosophically profound? Maybe you meant: "Only in America..." could someone challenge the gringo idea of "leader/follower" which is not the language of tango (in Argentina). "Only in America..." would someone have the audacity to even give the woman an important role of sharing the magic of what is happening between a couple. "Only in America..." can master teachers like Murat and Michelle come up with the idea of the music leading each step they take, and teaching others not steps but how to listen to the music and each other's movements. "Only in America!" But Chris, it's not just America. All over the world people are rethinking the "me-talk-you-listen" model. The "leader-makes-or-breaks the dance." The "leader is to praise or blame." It's not "only America," Chris. There are good thinkers everywhere.

  5. I think that often in the beginning that one is danced...after enough exposure to music and being danced, the passivity tends to evaporate and a true communication can emerge and dancing occurs.

    One person does have to take the primary role of navigator, but beyond that there is a richness available in technique, timing, and musicality. I doubt that most people get to that point where leader and follower become meaningless terms, but that is a goal to strive for.

  6. @SMW: Sara, but you have been an enlightened listener in both roles. I have experienced you in listener one and Lister two roles. I too often make the mistake of thinking, surely others understand this or that. Surely we are evolving. But that is not the case in many areas of life, including tango. New Age thinkers keep saying that we are coming into a new evolution of thought/understand. No, some are, but humanity is having problems and very much not evolving. So is it with tango. We are not evolving in many ways. In my post, the World Tango Federation was supposed to be only a tongue-in-cheek play with the initials "WTF," but indeed there is a WTF! (My mistake.) I added their link since you read the above post. And yes, WTF!: The WTF indeed portrays the impression of man dominating woman, and man in charge of everything (good or bad). Entregue is a dual responsibility, but look how unenlightened the tango world can be!

  7. TT wrote: "Maybe you meant: "Only in America..." could someone challenge the gringo idea of "leader/follower" which is not the language of tango (in Argentina). "Only in America..." would someone have the audacity to even give the woman an important role of sharing the magic of what is happening between a couple. "Only in America..." can master teachers like Murat and Michelle come up with the idea of the music leading each step they take...

    I thought sarcasm wasn't your style, TT :)

    Only in America could a dance instructor think "allow-er" a suitable replacement for "woman".

    (...I hope.)

  8. What a riot!!! Keep it up! Blogs are hard to maintain, but you have the stuff to do it!!

    I love it!

  9. Hi TT
    Hi all

    I quite like the word listener for both dancers. And the jing/jang suits it well too. It leaves space for equivalent differences.
    And the pictures WTF posts express something out-dated. If this impression was Tango Argentino I would stop dancing immediately.

  10. @ David G. I love these words: Creator and Recreator. Choosing new terms needs to create something that is very difficult, and these terms do that My suggestions (listener 1 and Lister 2) already causes a problem of someone not wanting be number two. How are you using these terms? Is there an attribution to another person, teacher? Please send me a message privately or respond here.

    @Bird: I really like the Yin & Yang idea of different energies, but most do not know which one would apply to Listener 1, for example (Yang). So that is a problem.

    @ Will, I went to your YouTube channel and found your uploads helpful. I miss Denver (but what can I say... Europe is keeping me busy!).

  11. Hi TT,

    did I get you right that difference between woman and men should not be subject-matter of listener 1 or 2 ?
    And when, why do you think so ?

  12. @Bird: I am not sure what your question is. Could you email me at ? The traditionally man's role could be "listener 2." But since the traditional woman's role does indeed have to listen more/mediate more between the music and her partner's understanding of the music, I figured that "listener 2" makes sense. I often have unusual quirky turns, only caused from safety issues (sudden turns away from danger). Don't we all? Also, I hear things that perhaps she does not. Has she ever done a volcada to the harp sweeps in Buscandote by Frescedo? However, I think this #2 idea is not going to work. An earlier comment mentioned Creator/Re-Creator. Most anything is better than lead and follow.

  13. The sailor (for the leader) and the ship (for the follower).

    A sailor makes sailes come alive with wind but it is the wind that pushes the ship through the ocean. The sailor remains a master only as long as he respects the forces of wind and the qualities of his ship. He has to choose sailes in accordance to the wind and constantly keep in mind what kind of ship he is leading.

    In English, the word ship is always feminin and sailors know well that each ship has a will of it's own.

  14. @Anna: Interesting analogy: Wind/Ship. This may help me reframe how I have seen a few women, whom I have thought of as bing "refrigerators with tiny wheels." I will think of them instead as "ships on a course that I started but cannot stop easily." I also like the ancient concept of wind (pneuma), the unseen power that meant both "wind" and "spirit." It's really hard to come up with single terms! Certainly anything is better than leader/follower, but ships are not so good at giros. :-)

  15. Well, if I saved any woman from being perceived as a refrigerator my analogy is definitely beneficial. :)

    But back to the point. It is good to coin new terms and play with them just to rethink matters. But the fact is I do not see anything deeply wrong in traditional terms leader/follower. It is rather, I'd say, that people do not sense any depth in them any more.

    A good leader is not someone who just drags people the way he wishes. A good leader knows he is bound and led by the reality which surrounds him, the reality of past and changing present - that is his music. He knows his followers, he has a careful eye on how they react to his leadership and can use their creativity to the benefit of his leadership. A true leader can lead people even beyond what is imaginable but only according to his better understanding of what is possible.

    And, by the way, why assume veleros are not so good at giros? Has anyone tried it with them? :) A bit of imagination please :)

  16. @Anna: Terminology like "lead/follow" carry with them lot of positive and negative connotations. I would say the list of negative connotations is too long. My experience is that that as a new dancer I was too often to blame for anything that was not working (although 100 other women responded well to my intent with the same move). Now I too often hear after complimenting a woman for a wonderful tanda, "I JUST followed you." In both cases women were minimizing or abdicating their important role. Also, since I started speaking out about the terms being inappropriate, guess who most disagreed, men or women? I am not here to speak up for women and empower them. I speak up to say that I am not a leader and they (I hope) are not followers. Women who follow are difficult to dance with because they pay attention to me too much and not the true leader (the music). Women who follow are more likely to believe they don't need classes or work on their own balance because they JUST follow.

  17. TT wrote: "Terminology like "lead/follow" carry with them lot of positive and negative connotations."

    Positive connotations?? Really?? I'd be interested in hearing some.

  18. Mark,
    If only less than 1% of dancers blamed you for your leading and other responded well that probably means the “old” terminology worked for 99% of the dancers. And if many of those with whom you had a wonderful tanda would say “I just followed you”, that is another reason for me to doubt accuracy of your conclusions. By the way, I am pretty sure that this kind of compliment you’ve been given does not mean that the women is oblivious either of her abilities as a dancer or of the results of the work that she has put in improving them.
    The real question that seems to bother you is why some, let's say "responders", take less lessons or quit on them completely. I do not know anyone who would do it out of satisfaction with her own dancing. So I wouldn't search a clue in the terminology.

  19. @Ann,
    I see that no amount of reasoning will change your mind about you apparently see the appropriateness (if not the beauty) of the terms Leader/Follower. I respect that you like these terms. I'd prefer to leave it at that. I would like comments about new ideas, and after we have thought about it for a while, then go back to the traditional English-speaking terms.

    I think you believe my research hypothesis is amazingly naive... (that leader as a term gives too much responsibility to 50% of the team). Really? A team of two, one is a leader and another is a "follower," and there are no problems with the leader carrying too much responsibility for things going well or not? Okay. If you say so.

    Regarding women saying "I just followed what you led" as a compliment to me: This is my experience, and perhaps I have not expressed myself very well in that feel that it is a misplaced compliment and devaluation of magic of her role.

    I think that I have a bit of insight that is missing with many "guide-listeners." It is very easy to accept a compliment and be proud when everything goes right. Doesn't feeding egos one edge of a two-edged blade? I am not going for the male-ego bate. Can I get 2 points for "effort"? Instead, I am attempting to share 50% of the magic with my partner. Would you prefer just to say, "Oh, how nice that I led you so well. Let's dance again later [so I can get so more exaggerated praise]!!!"

    The "real question" that bothers me, you say, has to do with lessons that women might not be taking. Actually that is not my belief. I miscommunicated yet again. Many take TOO MANY lessons from teachers who focus on an endless, money-gouging list of steps and essential things to learn to prepare one for the tango stage and stardom and have the highest Cool-Factor in the tango town. I was thinking of a few women who have never learned how to embrace me as they learned from their mother long ago.

    If you know my blog then you will notice that I am very sceptical about taking lots of lesson. Last night our local instructor taught a women on the dance floor. (Yeah, he does it at ever milonga, and north of here, the teacher in Trier does the same.) He badgered a woman at nearly every step. I have known her in the salsa scene and now tango for many years. I took her in my arms and said, "A man who knows every move in his 3-volume set of the Kamasutra does not necessarily make a good lover." We had a WONDERFUL tanda. Women don't need more classes necessarily. So that is not bothers me. Ann, I am working at communicating better. It's very humbling to communicate something so far from my intention. I will work on that. And I hope that one day my attempts at talking about tango will resonate with you. Right now, I think my ideas may be a bit irksome. Even if what I write is that, perhaps it has value that it gets you defining what is good for you as a "follower." Namaste... Mark

  20. TT wrote: "I was thinking of a few women who have never learned how to embrace me as they learned from their mother long ago."

    Let's also consider the women who did learn how to embrace, but then had this drilled out of them by classes where embrace is actually a handicap in copying the instructor's externally imposed steps.

  21. Ping and Pong. However, this might be confusing if Ping is the personal name of the person in the Pong role. :)


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